Clown Torture, or a Tortured Clown?

I found an odd and unsettling sense of serenity in that darkened room where the painted faced clown screamed at me. His repetitious impression of a spoiled child, supine, legs kicking in the air, his fists pounding the floor, screaming “No! No! No!” was, for some odd reason, comforting to me, in fact, enthralling. This video image looped on the silver screen, positioned flat against the wall, over and over again, his shining yellow and red striped satin paints, seeming to billow with every kick of his legs, and the white frill around his neck very old fashioned.

The walls of the room were black, so black they seemed to eat all light emitted from the projectors overhead and four small, nineteen inch tvs, two stacks of two, which projected the nightmarish images of painted faces and brightly colored gaudy outfits. Across the room from the paroxysmal clown, was the same clown, on a twelve foot by twelve foot silver screen, sitting on a toilet, his pants around his knees, fumbling with a newspaper, which kept falling from his hands. Wedged between the walls of a dirty public restroom stall, this clown shifted uncomfortably, constantly fumbling with a large newspaper, while the sounds of pedestrians entering the bathroom could be heard around him.

There was something soothing in those sounds.

I felt at home in the cinematographic lamp light, with the screams echoing through those darkened walls, images of brightly painted clowns, inundating me from all sides.

Bruce Nauman, what a genius?

There was something hypnotic about it, something confusing, yet enthralling. Fascinating, it was goddamn fascinating.

I wondered, what would it be like to walk into the Art Institue of Chicago, day after day, and sit in this room, bathed in the halogen lamp glow, watching screaming clowns. I wonder, would that be torture?


The prostitute whistled back to her pimp, with every loud, echoing clap, of his cupped hands. Out the window I could see a dreary fog hanging in the sky, turning the streetlights into a twinkling luminescence. The neighborhood seemed quiet, an eery pall draped over the old, cobbled street. I could hear the click of her heels on the sidewalk with every step she took, like two wooden blocks being smacked together by a toddler at play. There was a slow rhythm to her gait, and the cadence seemed very methodical, very intentional, as if someone out for a slow, sauntering stroll. Her sundress swished in the moist night, as a cool, early autumn breeze, blew a few dry leaves in her direction. Her skin pimpled from the cold, she rubbed her arms for warmth, as each drop of moisture in the air floated listlessly, separated in the murky light.

A loud thunderous clap, thrice, came from around the corner of the street, and placing fingers to her lips, she whistled a shrill, ear piercing sound, twice, continuing her rounds. The hushed street, her office, and she strolled down the sidewalk, familiar with every crevice, every fissure, which frost had heaved in the concrete surface. Watching her, it was as if she floated down the street, with a subtle and hidden grace. Her feet moved deftly atop the concrete, her heels belying her height, and she moved as if on a fashion runway, toe to toe, head held high, yet she did not exude the confidence that models show. Her head, held high, her eyes gazed to the heavens with a wistful stare, as if she could somehow peer through the fog and twinkling lamplight, to see the celestial bodies above.

Her brunette tipped, blond hair, fluttered in the slight breeze, and bracing herself against the chill, she hugged her chest, rubbing her long bony fingers across her shoulders. She looked haggard, like a skeleton in a loose hanging skin suit, and in the tenebrous light, her eyes seemed to sink in her head, dark sockets void of any life. Jewelry hung from her spindly wrists, almost falling off her hands, the small bobbles and beads seeming to weigh down her spaghetti arms. Somewhere in the distance, masked by the fog, three booming claps reverberated through the mist. Her whole body heaved with an frustrated sigh, and she flung herself onto the concrete wall next to my apartment window. Cupping hands over her face, sobs broke their way through the glass, which separated the two of us. She did not whistle back, but instead, he did. This time a sharp, strident whistle came from the fog, one loud shrill blast. She uncupped her hands and clapped, thrice, and the night went silent.

She sat there for quite a while, the fog, a moist blanket embracing her body. Her hair hung straight and wet onto her shoulders, she sat there, still, in the cool brume of early autumn. Standing up, she slowly wiped her fingers under her eyes, wiping away the mascara, which smeared on her cheeks. With the same fastidious step as before, she moved down the block, a sharp click of each heel. As she moved away from the window, her figure began to dissipate into the fog, but before dissolving into the grey, she stopped under a streetlamp. The dull orange light basked a glow over her, and she seemed to take on a warm feature. From the abysmal night came three booming claps, and placing her fingers to her lips, she whistled to this unrevealed character, and wiping a tear away from her eye, she moved into the consuming darkness.

Her silhouette faded into the dark fume as she moved down the street. Eventually she faded into oblivion, her features all waning from my view. Occasionally, as I sat in that window seat, I could hear the loud, thunderous claps, followed by a shrill whistle. An empty, hollow, despondent whistle.

The Corner Bar

I sat at the bar. The dark, dank, smoke stained and saturated wood panel walls, create an atmosphere of comfort, and I languish in its embrace. Over the old, poly’d bar-top, hang three stained glass lamps, Schlitz mosaically emblazoned in blood red, against a field of green and yellow glass, held together by poorly soldered lead–small streaks of the poisonous metal trailing down shards of glistening colored glass. Encased by these hemispheres, dull, forty watt, yellowish bulbs, strain to brighten the room, but it is as if the lost hopes and damaged dreams of the patrons, swallow the light, which struggles against the stygian gloom. In the corner, an old, outdated, cigarette vending machine still occupies a space lost in time, as if a temporal vortex has opened up a conduit, a wormhole, transporting this bar space to the 1970s. The only update, that makes this machine modern, is the dollar changer, which is affixed to the wood veneered machine. The handle’s clear, molded plastic pull knobs, are no longer transparent, but yellowed with age, as if the  nicotine, which stains so many white mustaches of habitual smokers tawny, has jumped from their tobacco stained fingers, to the knobs themselves.

This bar, which lives in two times, torn between the old and the ever changing present–the quickening technology of this age–has a digital jukebox attached to a wall, down and across from the bar. Its blue digital light, simulating neon, encircles the device which spits out heavy metal, 80’s rock, hair bands, and the occasional indie rock song. The small confine of the bar space echoes the music louder, as there is one volume, excessive. The patrons, all lined up on stools at the bar, sitting along the wall, and standing in any open space, don’t seem to notice the deafening sound, and instead their stentorian voices commingle with the music, creating a cacophony of revolting conversation and death metal.

A ‘Gansett in hand, and cheap shot of Old Crow sitting next to it, my writing ambitions wane away. Like an hour glass, my zeal for literary pursuits are grains of sand, slowly sifting, dropping into oblivion, one astringent sip at a time. Pen in hand, and composition book open, I spill a drop of amber colored liquid, of what passes for whisky, onto the clean, virginal, white page, lined by a pale, cornflower blue. No words to spare, I tap my pen against the empty space, the void of memory, the dearth of prose, which builds a frustration inside me.

Tipping back the tallboy ‘Gansett, the bartender comes over. Her wrinkled hand touches mine as she seeks my attention.

“Nother, hun.”

“Sure thing.”

I turn my attention back to the bar. The couple sitting in the dark corner practically fucking, the hipster picking music off the jukebox, the older woman sitting next to me, her flaxen dry hair cut to a bob, they are all rich characters. These are my people, my characters, they inhabit the pages of my notebook, and find their way into my stories. They may never know it, but they will be immortalized in words, and their essence, even if it is a small, superficial bit, transferred to some literary persona. Their actions are fodder for my work, and farmed like potatoes plucked from the field, but that is for later. Tonight, I drink.

As I tip back the can, I converse with the woman next to me. We drink, we commiserate, and I find a character, the lonely barfly, the empty vessel, the lost soul, and then I wonder, what character will she play?


Sit and ponder. Contemplate, it is a lost art. Take the time to think, quietly, about nothing, if need be. Analyze things and just wonder. Try and figure out for yourself how things work, even if the internet can tell you. Enjoy your surroundings, take in conversations, basque in the light. Observe the light. Just be cognizant of your surroundings, of the world, and enjoy it.

You learn a lot from eavesdropping, and learn more from sitting quietly. I learned, that when doing ethnographic research, that if your informant answers your question, sit quietly, and do not say a word. The silence that develops between the two of you will make them feel uncomfortable. They will feel the need to fill that void, and elaborate more on the answer they just gave. Trust me, the best skill a writer can have is observation and the patience to listen.

Bars are great character development locations. Coffee shops are great spots to watch first dates. No character is too insane–trust me on this one, I am qualified to make this assessment. The best characters, have, well, character. Townie bars are great places to observe.

Above all else, remember, a story best told is one experienced.

The Catch-22 of Big Brother


How great a writer one must be, to have their work become part of a society’s vernacular, and its usage remain relevant decades later? I imagine George Orwell penning Nineteen Eighty-Four–yes originally the title was spelled out–and never even fathoming that the term he coined, “big brother,” would become so synonymous with government; especially in a society that deems itself “democratic” as America does. Although I am sure this term is used more frequently on Fox News than on any other network, this phrase has become the epitome of overreaching government which takes away freedoms from its own citizens. Orwell was a great man who strove for social change and the betterment of society, and this is obvious in his writings, but I digress, I am straying far from the point. I am sure George never imagined, that today, in 2015, we would still be using this phrase he made popular, in his ever famous novel.

Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I recall borrowing Catch-22, from the Cutchogue Library, when I was thirteen years old. I can still feel the dust jacket under my fingers as, on a whim, I picked this book off the shelf and brought it home. I poured through the pages with a furious speed as each page enthralled me to keep reading more and more. Under the covers by flashlight I learned “catch-22,” a phrase that I had heard before, but never attempted to discover its meaning.  I remember reading this book and empathizing with Yosarian, feeling his frustrations, nervous for his life. The ridiculousness of it all, somehow made it more realistic, and I yearned for more and more.

But, catch-22, the phrase is cringeworthy. I love it, but hate it. I use it quite a bit, but so do so many others I know, and I have to say, just a ballpark guess, seventy percent of people I know use it incorrectly. I sit there, and listen to them ramble on saying “well its a catch-22” and I think to myself, actually no its not. I don’t want to be the know-it-all, so I keep my mouth shut. I could explain to them that in the novel “catch-22” was a military rule, which said to get out of flying missions, you would have to say you are crazy and apply for a dispensation from flying, but to acknowledge you are crazy and applying for this dispensation, makes you sane, its “catch-22.” So, essentially, there was no way to get out of flying missions. If I explained this I would be met with empty stares, so I just keep my mouth shut.

I wonder, what would I contribute to the vocabulary of America through my writing? I hope that someday, when I publish novels, that one of my phrases becomes a popular saying, and remains part of the language. The downside is, you don’t get to pick what is chosen. It could be some trashy little innuendo that is slapped into the book to emphasize the sleaziness of a character, or, with my luck, some childish phrase which is remembered forever. I guess the worst of it all, would be who appropriates the phrase and work. I really don’t want a piece of my literature to be adopted by Fox News, or some ridiculous group like the KKK. But of course that is all left up to chance, and that is, if it even happens. Maybe while I am alive I will  start something. start whispering those two luscious words into people’s ears at bars. I’ll imbue it into my thesis, and every chapter will contain some perfect two word phrase which could spread like wild fire through the minds of this generation.

It will probably come to me in some drunken haze, and I will stumble around, grasping for a pen and paper, jotting down these two words of genius, shoving the crumpled receipt back in my pocket. Finding it the next day I will open it up, and read the phrase, thinking to myself, what the hell does that mean, and toss it into the basket, forever throwing out my chances at literary fame.

To be immortalized in American vernacular, oh what better way can one die.

A Grocery-Cart Stoplight

Realizing that this is my platform to capture people’s attentions, even for the most mundane, everyday occurrence, I will take full advantage of this. Since when has it become mandatory to have the plastic divider on the conveyor belt at the grocery store, before you put your items down. I have noticed in the past few years, with increasing curiosity, that using this has become an unwritten rule in our culture? When did the plastic divider become necessary?

Standing in line, I notice the stench of B.O. emanating from the large man in front of me. His Mossy Oak head to toe camouflage outfit seems to ooze this stink about the customer line, as if peeled onions are shoved into the pockets of his coat. If this isn’t enough, I could reach over and grab his hair, and probably wring out enough oil from his hair to deep fry a whole chicken, but hey, who am I to judge. We all have our bad hair days, all have those times when we have woken up, hungover, face peeling off the floor where we passed out the night before, stumbling to the commons on campus in our pajamas, the stink of whisky, cheap beer, and vomit lingering on our lips, so again, who the hell am I to judge. I’m older now, cleaned up, well-dressed, but hey, I was there once, and now I stand in line, waiting to check out.

My food lays on the conveyer belt, next to the bright foil bags filled with corn chips and triangular shaped nachos. And then I see it, the look, the look of death. As if somehow my food will infect his, I see it, the casual flick of the hand, sending the little plastic bar, the guardian of groceries, to land atop my pile. All I receive is a gruff, “use it.” Choking back any snarky comments that would fly from my mouth toward this man who has not seen a bar of soap in weeks, I casually take the divider, and place it between our foods. This bar somehow delineates food property, conveyer belt real estate. The six inches between our two piles, somehow is not enough of a demarcation between the differing purchases. The fact that my food is, well, much different than his, or maybe, just maybe, the fact that the cashier saw me place my items on the belt isn’t good enough, no, he has to make sure that it is known to all, those few piddly items of food are his.

So, ok, one time doesn’t make this a thing, but so many times I have noticed customers standing behind me, not placing their items on the belt, without that plastic bar up there. I will sometimes wait so long without placing that divider up there, just to see people’s reactions. I have almost had all my groceries in the express line rung up, before the person behind me grasped the divider with an annoyed look, placed it on the belt, even though almost all my items were gone, and then took their groceries out of their basket. This whole thing is puzzling to me, it is an enigma, an odd phenomenon.

Maybe people are afraid of food touching. I mean I wouldn’t want that cheap ass Natty Light touching my craft beer, it might instantly skunk it. Or maybe they are afraid of the devious ones in society. I think it would be great. You can let random items spill into other people’s groceries, stand there with Depends adult diapers, and just let them mix into the pile in front of mine, looking at the cashier with a face of pure innocence, “They’re not mine. No, I didn’t put them up here. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. You’ll persevere.” Maybe, people are afraid, that for some reason we are going to sabotage them, placing high end foods in their pile, which the average, unsuspecting American, would never notice until they got home. You would never return it, because we all know it is tacky to return food to the grocery store. Yeah, I need to bring back these two bunches of grapes, they weren’t up to my standards–Can you return produce?

Anyway, when the hell did this little plastic divider, that people are so afraid of, become king of the conveyor belt. Since when did this divider become the absolute dictator of when to put your food down for checkout. Seriously, I wonder, if you drew a red line on the floor in the grocery, right before the checkout line, people would stand behind it, waiting to be waved on from the cashier, without ever being told what it was. Like a dog confused at the other canines on television, people would stare at this line, touching it with their toes, as if it would turn green, a grocery cart stoplight. I say screw the divider and go for broke. Throw your groceries on top of the other customers, and purchase the whole lot. It will be exciting when you get home, you won’t know what you bought, till unveiling the purchase in the safety of your own kitchen. Surprise, tampons. Surprise, capers. Surprise, coconut. Ah, what a great dinner this will be. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t use the divider, and put your items as close to the other customer’s, just to watch the look of absolute concern wash over their face, as fear of grocery integration swirls around their imagination.

A Muse of Utter Convenience

Goddamn you Muse. Goddamn you. You touch my shoulder and whisper into my ear at the worst times. You tickle my neck with your verbose lips as you run your soft fingertips through my hair. But why, oh why, must you do this while I am driving. Why must you visit me when I am entrenched in work, elbow deep in blood, or in the heat of a blazing inferno. You entice me, and force your words into my thoughts, but I sit there impotent, unable to act on your foreplay. You fill my mind with beautiful prose, multisyllabic lines with such deep enthralling content, and I am afraid of losing it forever, vanished inside my alcohol addled brain.

So you are a tease, a constant tease. I sit, staring at the screen, typing away at the keyboard with droll content barely eking from my mind, but when I am walking through the woods, with no implements to write or duplicate my thoughts, you come to me. My hands firmly grasping the wheel of my vehicle, plying the interstate at high speeds, you sit in the passenger seat, just rambling on and on, never halting your speech for even a breath. Why must you be so difficult?

And then there are those nights, those dark, cold nights, when you slither into bed, curling up next to me, whispering sweet loquacious sentences into my ear. You curl your warm body against mine, interjecting the most garrulous topics into my dreams, which render down to beautiful stanzas and prose. In a stupor I sit up, grasping at the last lines remembered in the painterly visions of my sleepy hallucinations, clinging at hope that I can scribble the pleonastic utterance of my mind’s characters.

Oh, Muse of mine. Let’s set a date, a schedule on my calendar. We can meet on the days I am free to write, or you know, just drop by whenever the feeling strikes you, like when I am walking through a museum, engrossed in the quietude of art, you know a time of utter convenience. Please, come to me whenever you feel like, but I would prefer you to schedule your visits in advance. Oh, and next time, bring a bottle of wine. I prefer red.

Holodeck from Hell

As my friend, Tom and I, were driving back from Brooklyn on I-678, we had enthralling conversation that lasted till we reached I-91 in Connecticut–if you are familiar with interstates in southern New England, you would know that is a pretty long stretch of driving. This conversation was one of importance that parallels politics, global warming, and indigenous rights to natural resources of postcolonial nation-states. Our minds drifted through childhood television programs, and the likes of MASH, Rescue 911, and Unsolved Mysteries graced our thoughts, as we spoke of shows that we vividly remembered. We talked about these shows, recalling our affinity towards Star Trek: The Next Generation, and reminisced about one thing, that even then, when we watched the show on primetime, we made note of this egregious writer’s faux pas, the ever destructive Holodeck.

Now I can appreciate that writers of sitcoms cannot fill every episode with plot enhancing stories, which further the underlying objective of the starship Enterprises’ mission, and they cannot keep finding planets and new civilizations every episode, because, lets be honest, the solar system would then be teaming with so much life that it would seem a little ridiculous. Bantering our theories back and forth, we came up with a consensus on a this topic of conversation, and it did not bode so well for the creators of The Next Generation.

First off, the writer’s of the show needed filler, and with the creation of the holodeck, they had enough filler to last a lifetime. Like I said before, they could not stumble upon a new civilization every episode without it seeming ridiculous. Or neither could every episode take place on the bridge of the enterprise, knowing sheer boredom would emerge from this, so what is the writers best tool, a trope that gives them unlimited ability to create stories that have no connection to the underlying plot line of the series. Think about it, the writers are all huddled in a room, and one of them has this genius idea, “What if we create a room? And in this room, they can replicate environments and scenarios, like watching a movie, but they are part of it. It will be interactive…I mean its the future, why wouldn’t they have this? And this way, we can write in episodes that have nothing to do with the plot of the show. You know, filler episodes.” I can see them all, shaking their heads, agreeing with the greatest tool ever given to the writer of a sitcom, unlimited possibility. But wait, heres the kicker.

So the holodeck seems a legit idea for the future. In fact, it is probably the most sane thing they could have ever done for that crew. Think about it, you’re trapped on a starship, millions of lightyears away from earth, the same environment seen day in and day out, and the only chance of touching your feet to a planet’s surface is by joining the away team, that, well, if you are not one of the main characters, than you are sure to die–we will address that in a future blog. So this holographic room of recreation has its merits, I will definitely make this concession, but that is where my praise ends.

You are the captain of a starship, and your crew keeps getting locked within a room which seems to want to malfunction and kill you, don’t you think you might do something about this? So why is it that EVERYONE, at one point or another on that damned show, has been trapped inside the holodeck?  Don’t you think, that at some point, you would say, “Hey, maybe we should put an out of service sign on this thing?” Better yet, why would you constantly keep going in there after you’ve been stuck inside many times before. Ok, human nature aside of a propensity for sheer stupidity, it just seems a little over the top. Especially, when  a crew member does become trapped inside this hellish room, the rest of the crew searches for them and never thinks to check the holodeck, as if they wouldn’t inspect the one room that seems to want to kill people. At this point, this all seems illogical. But wait, there’s more.

Can you imagine the Federation of Planet’s contract bid process. You’re a company that has holographic room technology, and you wish to install your product on the ship, securing a strong monetary contract for your company. You know you have competition though, two other corporations are waiting to one up you, stealing the contract from you, and walk away a rich happy firm, lining their pockets with the good taxpayer’s dollars. The government agent leans back in his chair, and confidently asks why your product stands out amongst the rest. With a dry smile and straight face you lean forward and say two words, “lethal mode.” Ok, seriously, lethal! You have an option for your holodeck to be lethal. In what application would this ever be necessary or acceptable to use. How does this, in anyway, make practical sense? I see the government agent standing up in a burst of excitement, “Brilliant, that’s just the kind of innovative spirit we are looking for in a company. You have the contract.” So it is not stressful enough, being so far from home on a star ship, but then you have to wonder if this holographic death box of a room will malfunction and try and kill you every time you use it, which seems pretty damn often.

So, if you are a person who loves to watch reruns of television, and a tendency to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, the next time you watch the show, think about the ridiculousness of the holodeck. Think about the fact that the ship has a room that can kill you, locks you in about twenty-five percent of the time, and then malfunctions and tries and kills you. Oh, and yes, I forgot, has the ability to make an evil sentient being, that then could leave the holodeck and plot to destroy the ship. Yeah, those writers were geniuses. Geniuses I tell you, “Hey, what do you think this episode should be about? Hmmm, let’s do a Sherlock Holmes episode on the holodeck. You know, filler.” Genius.


Today is the Day

I think I’ll write today. That’s it, I’ll write the book to end all books, the book which will get me published, my manuscript will ooze literary savant. I will sit down and words will pour from my fingertips as I furiously bang against the keyboard at a such a speed that my fingers will blur in my sight. I will examine the meaning of life, and put such deep philosophies into print, that my characters will be the most insightful, yet flawed, in the whole existence of history, and prehistory for that matter. Oh, it will be glorious.

I can see the scene set. The environment, the smells, the touch, the emotions, I will make all these things so believable, as I paint the canvas with my thoughts, that when the reader puts down the book, they will be distraught at how fake reality is. Today is the day that I paint my grand masterpiece. Today is the day.

Kissing my wife on her forehead, I relayed the news, and with an excitement bordering on neurosis, closed the door to my office. Coffee cup in hand, steam rising from the molten onyx liquid, which could make a boulder jitter, I took the first lip burning sip, and sat down to work.

Adjusting the lamp in my office–or as I prefer to call it, writing sanctuary–I flicked it off and on, off and on, listening to the click of the round nob, affixed to the brass, 50s, banker’s desk lamp. Staring at the white screen in from of me, I proceeded to fix the keyboard so as to have the maximal typing angle for my wrists. I then adjusted the seat, and analyzed the positioning of my arms, postulating the length of writing time, versus muscle memory, and comfortability of this posture.

Satisfied with this, I now stood up, and looking out the window, saw a flock of turkeys, eating seed from underneath my bird feeder. Their plumage was gorgeous as the sunlight reflected off their feathers, and I wondered how much bird feed in a week was consumed by these birds, and whether or not we should be putting seed down specifically for them, since it would be unfair feeding all the other smaller birds which fly to our feeder, but leave these poor turkeys to scratch up the snow for the leavings and unwanted seeds. These birds found themselves under my feeder for some time, little over a half hour, and then they trotted down the hill, meandering in the lower part of the woods for another hour.

As I sat back down at my desk, I looked around the room, and thought, how distracting all the clutter was. So, I set to work, moving this object here, and that object there. Well, that certainly helped my writing, because after all the organizing, and tidying, I typed a whole paragraph before it was time for lunch. Finding myself a bit peckish, and thirsty, I suggested to my wife we have a light lunch, because work was to be done.

Pawing through the fridge I found condiments, beer, champagne, mead, wilted lettuce–which I placed back in its spot to wilt some more–and various assortment of cheeses. This, being  insufficient a lunch to aid in the endeavors of writing, with a swift step we made our way to the local brewpub. As always the waitress was friendly, and plied her wares upon us, with a quick friendly efficiency, which any salesperson would be jealous. I don’t recall how much we ate or drink, but I believe it was merely a snack.

Making our way back home, we took the dog for a walk, because it would be cruel not to, and then I went right back to my manuscript which would be the benchmark for all literature in the future of known civilization. I then noticed that I had not checked my email in a few hours, and found many adds which could aid me in my quest for great writing. The advertisements of certain travel companies, promising me cheap discounts to Belgium and Ireland, certainly could aid in the prose of any author. Why these countries could be the locations for such stories, or muses of sorts.

This led me to a frantic search for discount travel books on Western European travel, and I came across many that were outdated by a few years. This being insufficient, I found one recent copy on eBay, which just so serendipitously was ending in only an hour. I made a bid, and was instantly outbid, so I put in an outrageously fair price, and then went back to writing.

Not wanting to miss out on such a great opportunity this cheap travel guide was, I clicked the mouse over, just a few times, to my open web browser, hidden behind my almost blank literary canvas, just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on such a good deal. I sensed I was to be the victor of such an auction, and resigned myself to set aside my literary genius for a moment, and not pass up such an instrumental opportunity, that could forever change my life. If I won this guide I could travel Europe unhindered, having the knowledge of which all the locals had, for the subtitle even said “All the tourists know, and the secrets the locals keep for themselves.” I mean, how could someone pass on that.

The victor, last minute sniping, and bids well suited for the cost of such a book I could buy at the local bookstore with no shipping and handling attached to its price–I knew this accomplishment was big. In fact so big because of what it meant for my writing. I sat back, tilting my chair on two legs, and imagined the characters I would develop in Beligium, the bars that would become settings in stories, and the medieval churches, which would be the allegory for so many conflicts the recovering Catholic main character would encounter. Oh this all swirled in my head, and looking outside I realized that the earth was taking on a grey pall.

Opening the door to my office, I looked back inside, and satisfied with my days work, I stepped out into the warmth of the living room, standing next to the wood stove. I rubbed my hands together, warming them after all the hard work, satisfied with my day of writing.




A Swim Amongst the Tempest

They walked along the rocky shore, the salted air misting against their skin as a fierce bitter wind cut through their coats, pulled tightly about their necks. The weather encased them in a snow globe of nor’easter, while waves churned in the emerald green ocean, white caps cresting atop each swell. Foam frothed on the edge of the chilled water like a rabid dogs mouth, waiting to sink its teeth into fresh meat. The shore itself seemed to heave and list under their feet with the lap and crash of every white cap rushing onto the rock strewn beach. Pines bent under the gail force, and the wind itself seamed to scream a banshee’s wail, warning them of impending peril. They walked along the rocky shore, together, yet apart, as they bent down, picking the stones which interested them, on this gray tempestuous day.

She walked along the edge of the surf, like an acrobat on a tight-rope, high above a three ring circus below. With every step, she watched the ocean rush in, all the while dodging white spume atop these dying waves, their last gasp taken as they thinned out across the pebbles and rocks of the beach. Salt water mixed with the rain, descending from the stygian clouds overhead. Like a sopping wool blanket, dark clouds hung in the sky overhead, while massive chapped hands rung them out, saturating the world below. The viridescent ocean violently surged and battered against the boulders which dotted the shore, carbuncles jutting from the soggy delineation between land and the briny sea.

Looking out upon the ocean, she bent down, dipping her fingers in the cold waters of Naskeag Harbor. Placing two fingers to her lips, she tasted the salt, lightly trailing her fingers over her cherry lips. Gazing out over the white-capped reach, a distrait look loomed on her countenance. Dark hair undulated chaotically from beneath her hood, as a sharp gale cut through the frigid air. Like tendrils of black ink, her tresses seemed to float in the air, defying gravity as it drifted sideways, as if she were suspended in the deep sea. Scooping up a hand-full of sand and rocks, she rolled the gritty mixture between her fingers and palm. Saturated sand dropped in clumps out of her hand, splashing in the breaking surf, as she stared through the squall, at the island capped in pointed firs.

Squinting her eyes to descry Harbor Island’s dark silhouette through the sleet and mist, roiling in the atmosphere, she made out a house set amongst the forest, a lone sentinel amidst the ocean wilderness. With a sudden and quick movement, she stood erect, and with one hand, unzipped her black raincoat, letting it slip off her body onto the drenched shore. One layer closer to the soggy atmosphere of this tempest, she felt the cold sleet beat against her head, saturating her hair, reddening her cheeks. Kicking off her shoes with a frivolous, quick gesture, her boots landed in the water of the ocean, sinking slowly into the depths of the water. With her bare feet pressing into the sand, she crinkled her toes against the cold, wet grains, feeling a numbness slip into her feet, as the cold penetrated her skin.

A sudden gust, and a wave’s white cap, sprayed and carried on the wind, flinging itself against his raincoat, salting the waxed cotton canvas, which stiffly protected him from the elements. Rain pelted against his face and ran down chilled, rosy, wind-burnt cheeks, while rivulets of rain tickled his neck, soaking the collar of his shirt. Walking along the wharf, swells struck the boulders which footed this artifice of land, the large cuts of granite impervious to the howling weather. A seagull alighted from the wind torn sky upon a barnacle covered rock, barely jutting from the tumbled sea. In the distance, Hog Island was scarcely visible through the white slurry of winter’s gale. A seagull cawed from a distance, laughing at the weather, mocking her attempt at destruction and chaos. At the edge of the wharf he peered into the whitening distance, out across the ocean, which darkened in the slow extinguishment of day’s light, as the looming clouds developed an ominous sable color.

Her pale skin seemed to irradiate in the eventide as she slipped off her bra, the last article of clothing on her body, dropping it unceremoniously to the ground. A lapping wave washed over it, and seemed to pull it toward the sea, every lick of the rolling surf pulling it a little closer to the murky waters. Stepping into the water a shiver ran through her body. Blood pumped furiously through her arteries, instinctively forcing warmth to her chilled limbs, which, as her skin pimpled and colored paler than normal, seemed a lost cause. With every step deeper into the frigid ocean, her resolve strengthened, and her body slipped away into an encompassing numbness.

Torso deep, she could feel the rocks underfoot, as the uneven, stony floor of the harbor caused her ankles to collapse, as her foot rolled off them, finding only a jagged surface to walk on. Her cadaver feet could not feel the barnacles digging deep into her skin, as they moved mechanically along the sea’s bottom, yearning for an accommodating depth. As the water came to her chest, waves met her erect nipples, her skin a reddish hue of blotchiness mixed with the milkiest white of pale. A deep and thoughtful breath, she expanded her lungs till they felt as if they would burst, and she dove under, the waves thrusting over her as she swam below the surface of the tempest roiling over her head. In the pale light, which penetrated the murky abyss, she saw strands of kelp reaching up at her from the bottom, as she swam out farther to depths beyond her knowing. She felt as if she had swam forever, all the way to Harbor Island, to find herself climbing across the rocky beach, to the lone house which would be her home, all to herself.

Surfacing she took a breath, a deep breath, and felt her ribs convulse and her lungs scream, as they sought for air in the rough sea which swirled and shook about her. The salty water entered her mouth and lungs as she tread water, and looking up at the sky, found nothing but a charcoal blanket covering the coming night sky. Waves crested over her face, and she fought for air, as Neptune thrust his trident into the sky, unrelenting in his torment of the seas.

Her body no longer hers, she lingered there in the tenebrous gulf, treading water, awaiting her fate. Her corpse moved with a rhythm unknown to her, as sensation having left her, she moved with a purpose that was not hers, but a response linked to oxygen and survival. She could see, for a second, the shore over the waves, and then she realized, her legs and arms had stopped moving.

A crumpled pile of clothes lay on the shore, just at the water’s edge. He stared at this pile from the wharf, and not seeing her, ran to their location, with a nauseous sensation of fear and panic. In a frenzied hysteria, he pawed through the clothes, as if he were to find her at the bottom of the pile. Holding her shirt in his hands, a plastic bag was pinned to its wool material, a small piece of paper visible inside. Rain ran the blue ink, the sleet and rain clung to the thin paper in his hand. The note spoke of love and regret, but most of all, a fear of lose and the unknown.

He stood on the edge of the water, an inky wet meridian, and yelled into the howling wind, the only response a whistling gust from the sea, deriding him with her fury. Wading into the water, the night darkening overhead, he stood in the cold abyss, staring at the oceanic haystack where his needle rested. A chill came over him, as waves broke at his legs, plashing frigid water on his chest. Diving in, he swan on overwrought by panic, searching for her erratically, in a state of delirium. Waves crashed over his head, the salt water weighing on his lungs, and he gasped for air between the each wave, which battered against him. Defeated, he swam back to shore, and lay supine, staring at the onyx sky, as waves washed over his hypothermic body.

The night darkened, and sleet turned to snow as it swirled a turbulent dance, twirling in a discordant, diaphanous mist. A street light blinked on above the wharf, illuminating the white blanket which languidly fell. Shivering, he saw her form in the snow, moving toward him, covered all in white, as the large flakes clung to her icy skin. She lay down in the surf, her cold body pressed against his, as the chilled surf washed over their bodies. The snow fell with a steady force, accumulating on the beach, covering all surfaces with a thick, white, chill.

The darkness faded to a grey sky, and a red glow brightened the horizon, as dawn broke the morning. The earth was coated in a thick white blanket, and the chill air bit bare skin as fisherman made their way to the wharf. Casting their glances down the beach, they marveled at how the boulders on the shore, covered thickly with flakes, took on shapes. They tried to come up with a word for this, as they sipped on their coffee, steaming into the air, the hot black liquid burning their tongues and warming their throats.

“Pareidolia”, an older fisherman said from the back of the crowd, “Pareidolia. The occurrence when you think you see an image in an object, whether artificial or natural.”

The crowd of fisherman parted and looked at the old man who did not actively fish anymore, but came every morning to have coffee, as he did for the last forty years of his life. Very proudly at how he baffled the crowd, he spoke with a smugness, that even surprised himself.

“I read it in a magazine.”

They went back to sipping their coffee, shaking their heads in concurrence, leaning against the railing, as they looked down the beach. Cigarettes were smoked, and fresh coffee poured from thermoses as the morning light stretched across the beach, highlighting all the boulders and rocks covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

One young fisherman spoke from the end of the line.

” Pa. Rey. Do. Lia. Huh. That boulder looks like a man, curled up on the shore. Pa Rey Do Lia.”

Looking down the beach, the group agreed, and shook there heads slowly as they sipped on their coffee and smoked their cigarettes. A smile crossed the young fisherman’s face, his contribution to the group approved by the head nods, and he felt a pride swell in him. They looked down the beach, and like picking shapes out of the clouds, random objects and shapes were thrown out by the group. In the end, though, they all agreed, it definitely looked like a man.